Dear First Parish folks,
This month we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march that marked a huge turning point in the struggle for voting rights for black people.The Selma march was planned after the death of a young unarmed black man at the hands of state police.
Black people were very angry about yet another unjustified murder of a black man, and civil rights leaders decided that a several day march from Selma to Montgomery Alabama would channel people’s energy in a peaceful, productive manner.
On March 7, 1965, the first attempt took place. Called Bloody Sunday, sheriff’s deputies and state police beat unarmed black men, women and children as they tried to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge outside Selma. The televised images of unarmed black people being beaten by the officers shocked the nation. Two weeks and several deaths later, with the protection of the federal government, the marchers finally made that five-day walk from Selma to Montgomery. And the federal voting rights law was on its way.
But anti-racism history happened all over. Just a couple of days ago, the Boston Globe had an article about a new curriculum that will soon be woven into the Boston public schools’ history classes, a new curriculum dealing with the busing desegregation crisis in Boston in the 1960s. As an aide to then-Boston Mayor Kevin White said bluntly, “busing was our Selma.”The director of instructional development for the Boston Public School system started work on the new busing curriculum, inspired last year by the 40th anniversary of the federal order to desegregate the Boston schools. But she felt compelled to make it a reality after the protests erupted this summer over unarmed black men being killed by police.Many more black people can vote now than could in the early 1960s. Unarmed black men being beaten and killed by police officers is still an issue, though, and not just in the South.
This December our church, like the Boston instructional director, felt compelled to respond after more protests over unarmed black men being killed by police; we held a procession in Medfield to lift our voices in solidarity with the suffering of black people who still face pervasive, hurtful racism.Let’s take inspiration, as the director of instructional learning in the BPS did, from the past. This month, let’s remember and be inspired by the bravery of the marchers, mostly black and some white, who faced violence and injury fifty years ago in Selma in the search for justice.
And let’s look at the present too, and feel compelled to take some kind of action to reduce racism in our various communities, our families and ourselves. It’s not that the people who work and serve us in the judicial and enforcement systems are bad people: the systems we have set up in these areas are what makes racism pervasive, and that’s what the struggle must be with.
I invite you to think about what you have done recently, or could do in your day-to-day life about the racial injustice that still permeates our society.And I invite you to join myself and (hopefully) clergy and people from some of the other churches in town again soon, in a follow-up to our December march. Perhaps we’ll go see Selma (the movie) together, and discuss it afterwards.My deep hope is that we’ll all be inspired by this fiftieth anniversary of the Selma march, and compelled by the injustices that still occur, to take some kind of meaningful action in support of racial justice and healing this spring and in the months that follow.